Antigonea was founded by Pyrrhos, the King of the Molossians, in the
year 295 BC. The Molossians were one of the three tribes of Epirus (in
today’s southern Albania and northern Greece), which grew to a strong
state in this period. Antigonea developed as an important economic,
social, cultural and political center,
and at the end of the 3rd century
and in the beginning of the 2nd
century BC took shape as a polis
(city-state) and one of the most important settlements of antiquity.
The city was called Antigonea by Pyrrhos after his
first wife, the daughter of
King Pyrrhos
the Macedonian nobles Berenice
and Philip. Later Berenice married Ptolemy, the King of Egypt and
successor of Alexander the Great, in the court of whom Pyrrhos got
acquainted with Antigone. Besides his wife, Pyrrhos honored also his
mother-in-law Berenice by naming after her a city in Epirus.
When Pyrrhos was 17 years old, according to the ancient historian
Plutarch, an uprising overthrew him as king. He was placed under
the custody of King Demeter of
Macedonia and later was sent
to the court of Ptolemy. “Since
Pyrrhos was artful to absorb
powerful people and to hate
cowards, while being kind and
The Drinos Valley, both because of its fertility and its strategic importance,
was an early population center, witnessed by about 20 ancient cities and
fortifications, monumental barrows and tombs, ancient temples and
theaters. Without doubt, Antigonea has been
the main center of the valley between Selo
of Upper Dropull near the Greek border in
the south to Hadrianopolis and Melan and up
to Lekël at the northern end of the valley.
The ancient city of Antigonea is situated in a spectacular
location on the top of a ridge in the form of a dolphin,
overlooking the entire Drinos Valley, surmounted by two
peaks connected with each other by a narrow pass.
The urban surface of the city within and outside the fortified walls is estimated to have
been about 60 ha.
The city was surrounded by solid walls
about 4,000 m in length, protecting
the city from all sides, especially in the
southern and western parts where the
danger was greater because of the nature of the
terrain.The fortifying walls and those of most of the
houses discovered until now are made of large and
medium size blocks of limestone extracted from quarries
on Lunxhëria Mountain. Nowhere else can the establishment
Antigonea is distinguished from other ancient cities through its quadrangular and regular urban plan, similar to many Hellenistic cities of Greece.
For the first time in the ancient cities of Europe, urban and architectural
elements have been revealed that provide an idea of city planning, indicating that Antigonea had indeed been created upon decree, and not
developed over time.
Some small rural settlements identified outside the
surrounding walls, and agricultural tools discovered in
the excavations such as millstones and pithoi (large
pottery jars for storing liquids), show that the city had
a well-developed agricultural territory, something that the
region is still famous for till this day.
In the year 198 BC, Roman legions vanquished the army of Philip V, the
King of Macedonia, near Antigonea. As geographer Strabo reports, in 167
BC Antigonea and 70 other cities of Epirus were ruined by the legions of
Aemilius Paullus who took revenge for the damages inflicted on Italy by
the Pyrrhic War. The later existence of the city is attested only by a small
chapel. Its floor was decorated with a mosaic donated by local inhabitants,
showing Abraxas, an eastern demon fighter, with a cockrels head, in battle
against the powers of darkness represented
by a snake. The church was the last building
Pithoi interred in the
tanner’s house
Antigonea represents its challenging history
with remnants from the 3rd to the 2nd
century BC, and some buildings which belong to the initial period of Christianity. It is
not always easy to determine the ancient
name of the ruins of a city, but a number
of round cards made of
bronze with the inscription “ANTIGONEON” are the first epigraphic
documents allowing safe identification.
Archaeological expeditions have excavated a
great number of articles for daily needs made of
metal or clay. The rich inventory related to handicrafts and agriculture indicates that these sectors played
an important role in the economic life of the city. Artifacts found include
scythes, hooks, chisels, adzes, hammers, compasses and different
vessels made of bronze decorated with
figurines of animals or mythological
beings such as Poseidon, the Sphinx
or sirens. At least part of these objects
is of local production, which is proven
by the workshops where they were found.
Other branches, such as tanning leather,
carving stones, woodcraft etc. were developed as well. Numerous and varied
examples of ceramics for daily use, artistic objects, molds for their production, a
The National Archaeological Park of Antigonea was legally established
in 2005 and covers an area of about 92ha (core zone). Together with
the parks of Shkoder Castle, Lezha, Apollonia, Byllis, Amantia, Orikum,
Finiqi and Butrint, it forms Albania’s system of archaeological parks.
Antigonea has had an administration office since 2007 and employs
six staff.
How to get there
are from Epirus
and others from
Ambrakia (Arta),
Kerkyra (Corfu),
Macedonia, Dyrrachium (Durres),
Apollonia, Oricum,
Corinth, etc. These
Archaeological evidence
Antigonea Archaeological Park
Antigonea, the city that was built by
an order of Pyrrhos in honor of
his wife Antigonea as a sign
of love, was burned in
one night on the order
of the Roman general
Aemilius Paullus out of revenge and as a sign of hatred,
having flourished not even two centuries.
huge bulk of tiles and pithoi were
found in the excavations and indicate a large production of pottery.
Also discovered in Antigonea were
over 500 coins, most of which
You can reach Antigonea Archaeological Park by car (4WD recommended) within about one hour
from Gjirokastra. From the main
square in Asim Zeneli, a signposted hiking trail leads to the Park in
about 2 hours.
Opening hours
numismatic finds clearly indicate close trade relations
between Antigonea and other Hellenistic cities and
Weekdays 8:00 – 16:00h
Saturdays and Sundays 8:30 – 15:30h
We accept visitors outside the opening hours only with
special written authorization by the Park director and
accompanied by Park staff.
Trade relations are also reflected in various items
imported from Greece, such as black-glazed
ceramics, amphora from Rhodes etc., through
routes like the famous Via Egnatia and others
which passed along the coast.
Entrance fee
200 Albanian Lek
100 AL for schoolchildren, students and disabled persons
Free entrance every last Sunday of the month, except during June, July and August
Tickets can be bought at the Park Administration Office at
the main square of Asim Zeneli village or at the Park gate.
The largest part of the inventory of archaeological findings
of Antigonea is
preserved today
in the National
Historical Museum
and in the Archaeological Museum of Tirana.
The mini-museum offers exhibitions about excavations
and other activities of the Park, and you can buy some
souvenirs there.
What’s more to see
in Antigonea?
In the commune of Antigonea you
can get in touch with all historic
periods of mankind from prehistory
to modern times. While the caves of
Spile and Ladovishtë indicate that
the area has been populated from
the earliest times, the greatness of
antiquity is represented by Antigo-
nea. Three basilicas in the
neighboring villages testify
to the outset of Christianity,
and the monastery of Erem
in Spile, with Saint Nicola
Church, is evidence of the
era of Byzantium. The Ottoman period has left its traces
through the architecture of 17th - 18th century houses in Tranoshishtë,
and the trends of the communist period can be seen in the agricultural
cooperative villages named after partisans Arshi Lengo and Asim Zeneli.
Your support is needed!
Please help to keep the Park in good condition. Do not
litter and prepare to take all your waste out of the Park
with you.
Do not step on the ruins or lean against the columns.
It is strictly forbidden to make fire in the Park.
As of the time of printing, Antigonea Archaeological Park does not
provide any visitor services except a toilet, and you are advised to
bring your own supplies of food and drinks.
We are making continuing efforts to make your stay as enjoyable as
A brief history
Antigonea’s ancient street system
constructed in ancient Antigonea. It was likely destroyed
in the Slavic invasions of the 6th century.
Antigonea, the City of Pyrrhos’ Dream
Antigonea, the second city of the ancient
Epirote province of Kaonia after Phoinike
(Finiqi), both in size and importance, controlled
the famous Via Egnatia connecting Dyrrachium
(Durres), Apollonia and Oricum with the highlands of Ioannina and Southern Epirus. Due to its
important geographic position at a dominant point on the hill of Jerma,
in the middle of the Drinos Valley, Antigonea has been recognized as
representing the climax of an unprecedented development.
of fortified cities on the mountaintops, so typical for the ancient cities of
present-day Albania, be studied in a more exemplary way.
Map: David Dehnert
gentle in life”, as Plutarch wrote, he was selected
among other young princes to marry Antigone.
This marriage further appraised the figure
and good name of Pyrrhos. Due also to the
aid of his prudent wife, Pyrrhos managed to
collect money and an army, and start off
towards Epirus to reclaim the throne.
1 Remnants of the Fortified Wall (beginning
of the 3rd cent. BC) can be seen stretching
up the hill on the top of a steep slope. Its view
is particularly good from the Acropolis.
2 Ancient Nymphaeum of the Acropolis (be ginning of the 3rd cent. BC). A Nymphaeum was a spring and the sacred dwelling place of its female spirit (nymph). It was
rimmed and used to provide water.
3 Church of Shen Mëhill (Saint Michael) (6th
- 9th cent. AD). Measuring 8 m x 7.3 m
and composed of two sections, it was discovered in 1973 at the highest point on the hill of
the Acropolis. Construction materials have been
taken from the Acropolis’ defensive walls.
4 Defensive Fortification of the Acropolis (be
ginning of the 3rd cent. BC). The fortification is formed by three defensive belts of walls
narrowing up to the peak of the hill. The exterior wall belt has been formed by defensive
walls and seven reinforced towers.
5 Dwelling (Leather Workshop) (second half
of 3rd cent. BC). Discovered during archaeological excavations in 1968, it is a dwelling with an irregular floor plan consisting of a
corridor and five sections of various functions.
Discoveries made here include ceramics, such
as pithoi, kitchen dishes, bricks, bronze dishes
and iron work tools which are thought to have
been used for treating leather.
6 Fragments of the Surrounding Fortified
Walls (beginning of 3rd cent. BC). Remnants
of the northern gate with two towers.
7 Dwelling (Carriage Driver’s House) (second
half of the 3rd cent. BC). Discoveries made
here include a wagon wheel, coins etc.
8 Dwelling (second half of the 3rd cent. BC).
Residential house with an L-shaped floor
plan, consisting of an atrium and five alcoves.
The discoveries made here in 1968 have been
meaningful and in large numbers: bronze
dishes, work tools, bronze and silver coins, clay
stamps, a mini-statuette of Poseidon (god of
the ocean), voting identification cards and 14
bronze tablets with the name of the city on
them. It is at this house that the mysterious
bronze figurine of a harpy was found which
has become the symbol of Antigonea. In Greek
mythology, a harpy (“snatcher”) was one of the
winged spirits best known for constantly stealing all food from the prophet Phineas. They
were usually seen as personifications of the
sapping nature of wind.
Antigonea Archaeological Park
9 Dwelling with peristyle and floor covered
with a mosaic (beginning of 3rd cent. BC).
In Greek and Roman architecture, a peristyle
is an open colonnade surrounding a court or
garden inside a building. Discoveries: ceramics,
bronze objects and coins.
10 Ancient old fountain head. (Date unknown)
11 Monumental tomb (3rd - 2nd cent. BC).
Ancient grave of the Macedonian type consisting of two settings that are connected to
each other. The walls had been plastered, the
ceiling is a vault structure created with an arch.
Discovered during the excavations in 2005.
Discoveries made include ceramics and bronze
12 Main Gate, or Great Gate, of the Ancient
City with two fortified towers (3rd - 2nd
cent. BC). Discoveries: Traces of the installation
of two moving wings of the Great Gate.
13 Stoa with beautiful multi-cornered wall
(beginning of the 3rd cent. BC). Located
approximately 250 m away from the main
defensive wall of the city to the South. Discoveries include ceramics and coins. There
used to be a Nymphaeum in the vicinity.
14 Palaeo - Christian Basilica (a triconch
church) with a unique, multi-colored
mosaic (5th – 6th cent. AD). The layout of
the building is a triconch (having three apses
on the sides of the central square area of the
church), measuring 13.8 m in length and 4.6
m in width. The basilica is composed of two
parts: the main hall and the altar section, which
the three apses. It was discovered during the
excavations of 1974.
15 The Southern Fortification System (3rd –
Drawing of the mosaic floor in the basilica
2nd cent. BC) is a linear structure of 800
meters, with five defensive towers and the small
Southern Gate. It was the most significant defensive section of the city’s fortification system
and dates back to the beginning of the 3rd
century BC. The style used in its construction
is “isodomic” (regular, almost quadratic stone blocks in horizontal lines).
The five towers were comprised of two metallic constructions reinforced
through crossbeams. They were built in the shape of rectangles more than
6 m high and wide, in a distance of 60 m from each other.
16 The Agora (market place) and Main Stoa
(roofed promenade) (2nd - 3rd cent. BC)
has a rectangular plan of 59.6 m by 8.6 m
and had been decorated with columns in Doric
style. A unique drainage channel crosses it. In
1987 bronze figurines of Poseidon and a Mollos
Dog, and bronze fragments of a monumental
statue of a horseman (helmet, horse mane and
horseman’s hand with a ring on its finger) have
been found here.
17 Dwelling and public building (3rd - 2nd
cent. BC). A dwelling of peristyle form was
discovered next to the medieval church during
the excavations of 1986, measuring 18 m by
8.5 m. Based on its location in the center of the
town, its architecture and the lack of objects
for daily use, this building is assumed to be a
public building or a villa.
18 Christian church from the Byzantine Pe
riod, built between the 7th - 9th cent. AD
with stones and columns from ancient houses.
The medieval church of the IX-XI centuries has
a single nave measuring 11 m by 3.5 m. Thirteen tombs were discovered in the cemetery
next to the church, with partial inventories.
19 Large block of peristyle houses in various
models. This part of the town, with its
houses and channels, displays almost in full
the urban development of the city. The objects
in this block (all of them from the first half of
the 3rd cent. AD) are an Artisan’s House, a
Weaver’s House, the Measuring Stone and an
above-ground drainage system. Ceramic dishes
for daily use, ceramic roof tiles, artisan work
tools, counterweights for loom threads, bronze
coins, bronze decorative items and agricultural
work tools have been found here.
The buildings of this block vary based on their
Hypothetical reconstruction
type and function:
of the peristyle house
Dwellings with a rectangle peristyle, surrounded by spaces for living and economic
Dwellings with a courtyard and a gate placed
on either one or both sides of the courtyard.
A dwelling with a narrow hall in the middle
and spaces positioned on either side.
Dwellings which have their courtyard located
The measuring stone
at one corner of the house. The labeling of these houses is based on their
function - defined through the tools and other
objects found there:
The craftsman’s house, measuring 35 m x 15
m, with a surface of 335 m2, dates back to the
second half of the 3rd century BC. Discoveries
Archaeological excavation
here include bronze dishes, iron tools such as
an axe, cleaver, scythe, rusted bronze and iron, numerous coins, the bronze
handle of a dish in the shape of a sphinx figurine, ceramics, etc. Because
of the rusted metals and other discoveries, this house was judged to be the
house of a craftsman.
20 A natural cave is situated in the rocky eastern hill which in antiquity
served as a natural defense, partly reinforced by a polygonal wall.
According to ancient writers, the cave was used as a shelter by residents
during attacks from invaders and today is considered a historical site.
Central excavation area
Map: David Dehnert
(see numbers on the map)
Map: David Dehnert
Points of Interest
Archaeological Park
Antigonea Archaeological Park
Asim Zeneli Village, Commune of Antigonea
Gjirokastra, Albania
Tel/Fax +355 (8829) 3155
[email protected],
This mapguide was produced in cooperation with the Ministry of
Tourism, Culture, Youth and Sports and the Antigonea Archaeological Park
within the framework of the UN Joint Programme, “Culture and
Heritage for Social and Economic Development”, funded by
the Spanish Millennium Development Goals Achievement Fund
and in cooperation with
We are grateful to U.S. Peace Corps Volunteers Allan Zaretsky
and Seth Pyenson for their help in realizing this mapguide.
Archaeological Map: Albanian-Greek Archaeological Mission
Photos: Alket Islami, Engjëllush Serjani,
UN Joint Programme Team (Stephan Doempke)
Figures: Oliver Gilkes, UNESCO
The designations employed and the presentation of material throughout this
publication do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of
UNDP or UNESCO concerning the topic of this publication.
Delta Print, Tel. (04) 2244-701, [email protected]
© Antigonea Archaeological Park 2009

Antigonea A